— By Alex Blahnik —
What is eating at your profits? (It may be smaller than you think.)
Maybe supply chain disruptions and historic labor shortages are your biggest problems as you emerge from the pandemic, or perhaps, your challenge is meeting the demand of customers who are returning to the market and trying to purchase and dine their way to a normalcy. Whatever you may be facing, while you trimmed your expenses and obeyed social distancing orders to make it to this point, pests like mice, roaches, flies and rats did not slow down — and in fact, some have thrived during our shutdowns.
While business was slow, pests continued to grow in population and were forced to get more creative in finding sources of food. This created a perfect storm for pests to establish themselves in new places, and find ways to enter your facility, taint your supplies, and do the same to others in your supply chain. Let’s hope this storm doesn’t lead to an untimely appearance of a pest in front of your patrons, because that sort of presence might not just consume your profits, but also damage your reputation.
As you return to normal operations, here are five pest management best practices to keep in mind:
Inspect and Maintain Your Facility and Equipment
All too often, cockroaches enter and infest a facility through a simple dried drain trap or toilet. The time and money needed for a proper cockroach cleanout can catch you off guard, but the easier solution is to prevent pest infestations through proper maintenance in the first place. For example, dripping condensation from a refrigeration unit, sink or drain will provide the single ounce of water that a rat needs each day. Imagine how many insects can live on the water (and mold) that condensation creates. Start with these basic maintenance duties to stop or prevent pest issues at your facility:
- Inspect the equipment in your facility to ensure that it is functioning properly. Maintaining equipment will help make your property an unfriendly place for pests to live.
- Inspect your facility for any maintenance opportunities and correct them.
- Walk the entire facility. If you notice an odd smell, sound or something that does not seem quite right, take a minute to investigate and make any necessary repairs.
Restart the Sanitation Schedule
Sanitation is pest management. This may not be as easy as it sounds since areas may have been neglected for some time, and staffing may be a problem. However, if your facility is not thoroughly cleaned, then it is a prime spot for pests to live. Hot spots include in mop closets, under counters and prep tables, and under dish-machines. Pay special attention to and regularly clean the following items to manage pests well:
- Food and food residues
- Standing water
The best form of pest management is to keep pests out in the first place. If building maintenance suffered over the last year, you can get back on track by inspecting and repairing any entry gaps that exist. Focus on these areas of pest entry:
- Pedestrian and overhead doors: If a pen can fit through an opening, so can a mouse. If light shines through an opening, an insect can enter. Replace door sweeps to ensure a tight seal.
- Windows that open: Screens should be free of holes and seal tightly to the window frame.
- Wall penetrations (e.g. conduit, vents, drains, air conditioner lines, etc.): Look for damaged caulk or sealant, and replace as necessary.
Proper Stored Food Management
Stored food is a primary reason for pests to enter your facility. By managing your food well, you can eliminate pest resources, reduce future waste and resolve challenging pest infestations. Start with these practices:
- Inspect your stock: If you find pests on or in food products (this could include small insects, webbing or even rodents), gnawing or droppings on packaging, remove the product and take the appropriate pest management steps. For insect activity, you may be able to kill adult stored product pests and beetles by freezing the product for 48 hours; however, pest management professionals have found that the best practice is to discard any infested product.
- Order only what can reasonably be used: This may be more difficult than it seems; however, you need to keep in mind that excess food inventory, left unused for a few months, is the environment in which some pests thrive.
- Use FIFO: First In, First Out prevents your food from expiring and becoming waste, but it also protects your food from most stored-product pests.
Continue Pest Management Practices
Whether you perform pest management yourself or hire a professional, it is important to protect your facility with properly placed and maintained pest management devices, management strategies and treatments.
You’ve got this! Pests can be managed, and you can take control of the situation, so they don’t eat your profits (both figuratively and literally). It begins with these best practices. But if this seems like it is too much to handle, and you are looking for help to get back on track, simply ask for help by calling a pest management provider near you. They would be happy to help you inspect and take the proper pest management actions to regain control of your facility and pest-proof not just your facility, but your reputation and your profits.
— Alex Blahnik is a technical manager at Wil-Kil Pest Control, a leading pest control company in Wisconsin, serving residential and commercial customers in the healthcare, manufacturing and warehousing industries.